Hayate the Combat Butler!

Alt title: Hayate no Gotoku!

TV (52 eps)
2007 - 2008
Spring 2007
3.923 out of 5 from 13,810 votes
Rank #1,676

When Hayate was young, Santa appeared in a dream and told him that if he worked hard, he’d be rewarded. Thus, with an unbreakable will, the unfortunate Hayate has struggled through life holding onto that belief. In the present, his parents are lazy and unemployed, forcing Hayate to work several jobs to pay the bills. As if things couldn’t get worse, Hayate’s parents then run away, leaving him with an enormous debt and loan sharks on his tail! Naturally, the best solution to find money fast is… to kidnap someone?! A girl named Nagi is the target, but due to an unfortunate miscommunication, she believes Hayate has proposed to her and falls for him hard. After Nagi paid off his debt, Hayate must now work as her butler in order to repay her; but first, he must adapt to her wacky world!

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StoryPlot junkies beware: not only does Hayate the Combat Butler! have an awesomely unnecessary exclamation mark in its title, its plot goes absolutely nowhere. After a teasing the viewers with a promising premise, the series forgoes character development or plot progression in favor of episodic meandering. Because of this, those hoping for an engaging overarching plot or satisfying character development will ultimately be disappointed. If you’re still here, great! Anyone that doesn’t mind the prospect of watching 52 episodes of plot-free episodic comedy could do a lot worse than Hayate the Combat Butler! Moreover, even those normally adverse to “frozen in time” series may find this a welcome exception. In many ways, this anime is a spiritual successor to Excel Saga. There are countless similarities; both series enthusiastically break the fourth wall, rely on outrageous non sequitur, and are filled with obscure references to Japanese pop culture. Indeed, Hayate the Combat Butler! borrows from the classic parody anime so heavily that Excel Saga’s very own Nabeshin makes a brief appearance in homage. Like Excel Saga, Hayate the Combat Butler!’s humor will appeal most to those with a wide knowledge of Japanese nerd-culture. The series parodies countless sources, from Dragon Quest to Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion to eroge. Although the sheer number and variety of references will prevent any mortal Westerner from understanding everything (at one point the series jokes about Haruo Minami, a 1950's enka singer!), a reasonable familiarity will be able to catch quite a few. Fortunately, Hayate the Combat Butler! isn’t all obscure in-jokes. There are numerous additions to make the series more accessible: light romance subplots, slapstick, and a dash of cheerfully unnecessary fan-service. Furthermore, Hayate the Combat Butler!’s strong cast enables some raucously funny character-based comedy. Unfortunately, the series lacks consistency, especially in the latter half. Because of the absence of any real storyline, the jokes need to be funny for the series to really work; when they miss, the show inevitably bogs down. Many episodes are hilarious, but others are almost complete wastes of time. Still other episodes are a curious mix of the two – dull, uneventful filler punctuated by gut-busting gags. As a whole, however, Hayate the Combat Butler! provides enough laughs to be worthwhile in spite of its dry patches, whether it’s making an obscure reference, poking fun at Hayate and company, or just being plain wacky. While some may balk at the prospect of sitting through 52 episodes of what is essentially the anime chasing its tail, the charming cast and often brilliant parody make the show an enjoyable journey in spite of its shortcomings.AnimationThe anime sports a clean, mainstream look, with bright backgrounds and bubblegum character designs. Even this feels a bit tongue-in-cheek, as the style belies the show’s subversive parody and helps to make the jokes that much weirder and less predictable. There is occasional fanservice (often accompanied by the narrator helpfully announcing, “Here’s some fanservice!”), but it’s good-natured enough to never be too distracting.SoundThe music is subpar, with generic OP/EDs and even worse background music. In particular, an off-key trumpet piece was noticeably terrible and seemed to play every other episode. Voice acting as a whole is decent, but the narrator’s performance merits special praise. The seiyuu's bizarre, hammed up performance is side-splitting; at times he was able to get me to laugh even when the script hadn’t given him a joke.CharactersThe anime simply couldn’t work without Nagi and Hayate, the anime’s leads. Both characters are slight tweaks of existing archetypes, but are unique enough to still feel fresh and likable. Hayate gets plenty of laughs from being a mild-mannered guy with a “poor face” that also happens to be a shounen superhero, while Nagi is adorable as an introvert who hides embarrassment with bouts of rage. The interplay between the two provides plenty of humorous material, but also gets the audience personally invested in the show. Not all of Hayate the Combat Butler!’s supporting cast is as enjoyable; characters like the spacey, Osaka-esque Isumi are priceless additions, but others seem to do little else besides make noise and swallow screen time. Fortunately, the sheer number of side-characters prevents any one of them from ever becoming too tiring. Taken as a whole, the cast of Hayate the Combat Butler! is one of the main reasons that the series is able to stay entertaining in spite of its weak overarching plot.OverallHayate the Combat Butler! is worthy of a recommendation: a conditional one, but a recommendation all the same. The lack of plot will prevent many from enjoying the series, but others – especially fans of parody – will eat it up for its fantastic characters and unusually funny comedy.


When I first looked at Hayate no Gotoku, I definitely didn't expect it to be a show I'd end up enjoying. Just look at the plot: a boy goes to work for a 13 year-old girl as a fighting butler in order to pay off his debt. Then there's the whole stupid romance aspect, a talking tiger, a cross- dressing Hayate, flat characters (I'm not talking about Hinagiku), and a plot that NEVER advances. On paper this should spell disaster. I mean, if a show like this took itself seriously, even for a second, there's no way it could work, right? Right. Good thing it didn't.Let me say this right from the beginning: if at any point I felt that this show was actually going somewhere with the plot I would have jumped off screaming. However, it is at a literal stand-still throughout the enti re show. Hayate is always in his stupid situation as a COMBAT BUTLER!!! and Nagi always has her silly crush that Hayate will never ever pick up on. The characters also never develop past their initial...characterizations WHICH IS A GREAT THING. Why is this all a good thing? Let me explain.With all of the pesky things like plot and characters out of the way, this series can simply stick to its guns throughout its entirety: being freaking hilarious. The characters and plots are simply used to carry references, absurdity, parodies, and other assorted jokes with no regard for anything else. What this makes is for a show that makes you laugh. A lot. Typically, that's what I look for in comedy, with the romance bits only being there to create more comedy, and when drama is introduced it immediately gets shattered for more comedy. And when you finally think two characters may realize their feelings for each other something goes wrong for more comedy. More shows need to be like Hayate. We have plenty steaming piles of crap out there whose biggest flaw is the lack of being able to tell a good story. Usually, this is because their premise is horrible. When the premise is bad, generally trying to tell a story won't work. So, shows, instead of trying to make it work, simply create intentionally bad premises for comedic purposes. Use 1-Dimensional characters as segways for jokes, and if you ever feel the urge to advance the plot, make sure it's only done for the lols.At the end of the day what we're left with is a show vastly superior than the sum of its parts. If you need a story to keep you going through a show, then stay away, but if you can lean back and learn to just take everything for what it is and laugh, this should be a treat.


From the get go, this story feels so totally unreasonable and unrealistic to be remotely grounded in reality you may wonder what sort of reality this is reflecting.  There is no obvious suggestion it is an alternate reality other than the outrageous way a child is expected to pay for mistakes by his overly irresponsible and worthless parents who not only leave him with debts but completely abandon him in addition.  Even if this were true, what bass akwards government would ever be ridiculous enough to hold a child responsible for someone's problem who was supposed to be responsible for him?  The bizzare totally illogical fantasy setting aside, and if you can get passed how senseless this setting and setup is, the story is not to shabby. The characters however are not all equally worthwhile.  Nagi for example is a completely useless character.  All she thinks about is herself.  Even when the extremely guillable whipped Hayate does all he can to help her, she never ever seems to show much if any appreciation.  And if she has any so called sense of love she has a terrible way of showing it.  It is the kind of abusive love relationship abused spouses have with their abusive significant others but never seem to press charges or leave them.  Hayate is in an abused spouse like role as someone who takes it and never has the guts to leave and stand up on his own.  Which is rather surprising since he also seems to be a pretty capable combatent always coming to help the thankless Nagi or her friends.  Hinagiku is the only female really worthy of being a compatible girlfriend to the hapless Hayate and they even share a similar background which should make a potential connection all the more likely and potentionally stronger.  She is a worthwhile character and such a interesting character, that I would have to classify  her as one of the best and most appealing female characters in any anime or manga.  Where as Nagi is not even close to that.  Such a inept sense of choice for Hayate sadly for him drops his value as a worthwhile and interesting character in part because his lack of sense and strength to stand up for his own rights and on his own both against the greedy lawless creditors his pursuers are dumb enough to believe that he is either responsible or or remotely capable of fulfilling.  Odd as it is, this is one anime where frankly all the support characters outshine the two main characters. Ayumu is never properly set up and always treated as almost a joke or but of jokes in the anime who constantly gets some sort of prank like situation thrown on her missing opportunities or falling into hazards.  Isumi constantly leaves you wondering about what she is really all about as if she has all these strange hidden qualities about her that border some mythical sense of magic and mystery.  Sakuya is a friend who has Nagi's ear and gives advice but never seems interested enough to give her that pep talk she needs to wake up and treat people as more than tools.  Sakuya instead appears to always be looking for entertainment which maybe why she would rather watch the dramas play out around her.  Yukiiji is an adult who is the most irresponsible and immature among them all and that includes the youngest children.  That is pretty entertaining as well as ironic.  It is a bit sad to see this story evolve and develop and yet the two most important characters never seem to quite learn from their experiences or change much for the better.  In that way, it kind of defeats the very essence of what the story should have been about.  Then again perhaps some people like characters that never change or learn from thier mistakes or successes and haphazardly wonder through life like a blindfolded drunk acrobat on a high wire.

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